I loved Wolf Hall and waited anxiously for my local library to get a copy of this sequel; so I was a little taken aback when a reader on an unrelated discussion group said how much she'd disliked Wolf Hall. With that, I read Bring Up the Bodies in a slightly different light.
I still loved the book, but I have to admit the writing style is unusual, and could be distracting. It's almost
first person: everything is told from Thomas Cromwell's point of view, and nothing happens without his presence, but "he" usually refers to Cromwell himself. It's almost as if Cromwell is personally telling a story in the third person. This sort of thing usually makes my brain hurt and causes me to throw the book across the room (though, of course, I'd never do this with a library book!), so I can understand why someone else might find it unreadable.
Beyond that, you probably need to be a fan of the Tudor period of history, and probably Henry VIII in particular. It seems that practically all of the characters are named with variations of Thomas, Richard or Henry. That's not Mantel's fault: these are all historical characters! I wouldn't be surprised if certain minor characters got left out of the story purely because they would add yet another Tom, Dick or Harry (and I guess it's no coincidence that "every Tom, Dick and Harry" is English idiom for "everybody"). This, and the generally turbulent politics of the period, lead to a storyline that has to be extremely confusing if you don't at least understand the church politics of the time (Reformation), the major houses of the English nobility, and of course, Henry's serial monogamy.
Those issues surmounted, it is
a brilliant book. It's not intended to be a history, so no doubt license is taken with actual events, but it presents a fascinating and thrilling, possible, retelling of the events of Henry's reign — from the beggining of his dissatisfaction with Anne Boleyn to her execution and the coronation of Jane Seymour.
If you have trouble with the history, check out the equally good TV series The Tudors
, which is historically quite accurate, and covers the same ground (particularly season 2) from different viewpoints.